May 3 (UPI) — Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi met with North Korean Leader Kim Jong Un on Thursday in a rare visit that signals warming ties between the two nations.
Wang said China congratulates Kim on the recent inter-Korean summit and supports the end to the state of war on the Korean peninsula. His visit marked the first official high-level contact between North Korea and China since North and South Korea agreed to an agenda of peace and denuclearization at the summit in late April.
Kim was appreciative of China’s efforts to bring peace to the region, adding that North Korea is willing to strengthen its strategic communication with Beijing.
Wang spent two days in North Korea’s capital of Pyongyang, where he worked to ensure Kim didn’t veer towards the United States instead of China, according to some Chinese experts.
Although China has been a longtime benefactor of North Korea, Beijing officials fear Kim could use competition with the United States to reduce its dependency on the Chinese.
“Beijing likely would want to ensure that Pyongyang would not develop a closer relationship with Washington than Beijing,” Zhao Tong, a North Korea expert at the Carnegie-Tsinghua Center for Global Policy in Beijing, told the New York Times. “The visit by the Chinese foreign minister, the first in 11 years, appears to be part of that effort.”
Wang said China is willing to work with North Korea to boost “practical economic and trade cooperation.”
U.S. President Donald Trump is expected to meet with Kim — likely at the demilitarized zone between the North and South Korea — later this month.
China’s president, Xi Jinping, is expected to go to Pyongyang after the Trump-Kim meeting.